The Braves added more speed and some center-field insurance Friday when they claimed Eury Perez off waivers from the Yankees.
Perez, 24, stole 268 bases and hit .305 with a .360 on-base percentage in 698 games over eight minor league seasons with the Nationals, including seasons with 64, 45 and 51 steals from 2010 through 2012. He had more triples (25) than homers (20) in the minors.
Claimed off waivers by the Yankees in late September, Perez went 2-for-10 with one steal in four games for New York. He also had brief callups with Washington in 2012 and 2013 and is 4-for-23 (.174) with five stolen bases and six strikeouts in his limited major league stints.
Perez, a right-handed hitter, batted .310 with a .371 OBP in the minors last season, with 18 extra-base hits (two homers) and 26 steals in 30 attempts over 67 games, including 57 in Triple-A.
“We like this player — he has speed and can hit,” said John Hart, Braves president of baseball operations.
The acquisition pushed the Braves’ major league roster back to 40 and they’ll have to make a move to open a spot when veteran outfielder Jonny Gomes passes his physical and his contract is finalized. Gomes agreed to a one-year, $4 million deal on Thursday that includes a $3 million vesting option for 2016.
Gomes will be part of a left-field platoon, perhaps with Zoilo Almonte, a former Yankees prospect who signed as a six-year minor league free agent this winter.
Perez will likely compete to be a fourth or fifth outfielder and could be the primary option if center fielder B.J. Upton struggles again as he did the first two seasons of a five-year, $75.25 million contract. The Braves seem less inclined to keep Upton in the lineup for months on end waiting for him to come around if he doesn’t perform again early.
Perez has played mostly center field in the minors (585 games), though he also has 63 games in right field and 50 in left. He’s considered a strong defensive center fielder and started two games at the position for New York in September.
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